Hooray for Gay
My post today is all about the gay. While thankfully we are seeing more and more gay characters in YA fiction these days, it can still be hard to find YA fiction where a gay character plays the lead. But never fear! There are some great books around, and today I’m going to give you the lowdown on my favourite titles with gay protagonists.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth
Irene's face was bright against the dark of the sky, her eyes all shimmery wet, pieces of her hair blown free from her ponytail. She was beautiful. Everything in me wanted to kiss her, and at the same time it felt like everything in me was sick.
The writing in this moving American novel is nothing short of gorgeous. And its conversion camp focus gave me flashbacks to this awesome movie:
Pink by Lilli Wilkinson
Chloe would rather sit on the low stone wall just outside our school and smoke cigarettes and talk about Existentialism and Life and make out with me. She was wonderful, and I was pretty sure I was in love with her. So how come I wanted to leave so badly?
I love how sassy this Australian novel is – Chloe is irresistible, as are Ava’s ultra-understanding parents (‘They threw me a coming-out party. Seriously.’) Ultimately Pink is about Ava’s battle to work out where she fits in life, and who can’t relate to that?
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
Tiny Cooper is not the world’s gayest person, and he is not the world’s largest person, but I believe he may be the world’s largest person who is really, really gay.
Ingenious plotting and spectacular reveals aside, I love this book for its humour, its portrait of a friendship and its big-hearted characters. Tiny Cooper, football star and triple threat, is an all-time favourite of mine. Die-hard Tiny Cooper fans can now read Levithan’s follow-up, Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, but definitely read Will Grayson, Will Grayson first.
Peter by Kate Walker
David wasn’t a creep. He was nice. Ordinary. And that was my biggest problem, lining up those two images of him: being ordinary and being gay.
This Australian gem was an Honour Book in the Children’s Book of the Year Award back in 1992 at a time when gay YA was practically non-existent. There is no doubt Walker was a trailblazer. She had a lot of trouble getting Peter published because of its gay content, but luckily she persevered. Peter is a delightful and complex character whose journey is as relevant today as it was in 1992. Also: dirt bikes!
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
She inched closer. My ears were warm enough to heat up a Hot Pocket. My stomach felt the way it had on the Thunderbolt coaster at Six Flags New England.
I was lucky enough to meet Sara Farizan in May on her trip to Australia for Reading Matters. Tell Me Again... is her second novel, and there is plenty to love about it: her depiction of growing up in a Persian household in America, her protagonist Leila’s understated humour, the complete craziness of her psycho-villain Saskia, to name a few things. It’s a truthful, funny novel that anyone who’s ever had a crush will relate to.
Posse, Kate Welshman
Yes, I have a girlfriend. Yes, I’m a dyke. A big one. It shocks some people, I know. I’ve come out at an early age. Yes I knew it in my bones years before I met Marina.
This Australian novel is one of my favourite books, and I’d like more people to read it. It’s not easy to describe because it doesn’t slot into a well-defined category, but to me this is part of its strength. Amy is a gutsy character and Welshman crafts her story with subtle genius. Amy’s sexuality, while important to the plot, is not what it’s all about. Ultimately it is a complex tale about sex and power and one girl’s journey to understand how they operate.
Sugar Rush, Julie Burchill
We sat there smiling at each other, shimmied to a standstill, thinking about all the boys that had wanted us that day, and how none of them had got us, not for a minute; how we'd let them pay for drinks and candyfloss and then run away laughing, their cries of 'Slags!' and 'Bitches' ringing in our ears like respect rather than derision.
Sugar Rush is a completely joyous read. I first fell in love with the story when I watched the BBC4 adaptation, and while it’s safe to say the tellie series is stronger than the book, Burchill’s original is still worth dipping into. I challenge you not to fall for the charming Maria ‘Sugar’ Sweet yourself.
Boys Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew by Eli Glasman
I rolled my sleeve right the way up to my shoulder and Josh did the same, revealing a surprisingly well-toned bicep. I felt my heart contract and quickly shut my eyes, hoping to smother my imagination before it ran along Josh’s naked shoulder and built in my mind each curve and dip of his back.
This recent Australian novel offers a unique perspective on Orthodox Jewish life in Melbourne and a boy’s struggle to reconcile his sexuality and his faith. Funny and relatable, it’s an important addition to the OzYA scene.
If you’re looking for other titles, check out the Masterlist on http://www.gayya.org, which lists gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, transgender and asexual/aromantic YA fiction. It is impressively comprehensive. For an Australian focus, Australian LGBTQ YA is a good place to start.
Do you have any other LGBTI books that you have read and would recommend?